County identifies needs for CARES funding

Grant for more than $114M will be disbursed among government units, community partners and small businesses.
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The Kent County COVID Relief Subcommittee earlier this month drafted a report to the board of commissioners detailing its recommended guidelines for the allocation of CARES dollars.

Kent County was awarded a grant, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, of $114.6 million on April 24. The grant dollars presented the county an opportunity to cover not only county costs incurred due to this pandemic, but also to assist local units of government, community partners and local small businesses that experienced unexpected costs due to COVID-19.

Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Mandy Bolter then proposed county administration and a subcommittee of the board of commissioners develop a transparent strategy to define the county’s processes and guidance for allocation and distribution of these funds.

“We have been meeting according to (Gov. Gretchen) Whitmer’s executive orders,” said County Administrator Wayman Britt. “We have made it available and transparent. We have had one, two, three … 10 meetings related to COVID.”

Britt said the subcommittee held 10 meetings related to COVID prior to the drafting of the report.

According to county documents, the preliminary allocation of CARES Act funding includes $35 million in county expenses, which includes costs for testing, contact tracing, emergency operations center costs and return-to-work PPE for small businesses.

An additional $59.2 million was allocated for community investment, which includes other business assistance efforts, rent and eviction assistance to prevent homelessness, mental health and child care assistance for vulnerable populations and more.

Of the total $114.6 million grant, $20,433,581 remains unallocated by the county. The preliminary allocation includes $433,581 of the unallocated dollars reserved for a possible COVID second wave.

The process for allocation involved a review of internal expenses and available funds with the county. Additionally, community presentations were given to the subcommittee through the month of May, involving a community homeless needs report from the Heart of West Michigan United Way, local business impact report from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and an MEDC small business grant report from The Right Place.

“We’ve had presentations from the African American community … the Hispanic community presented, and we continue to see letters from the community,” Britt said.

The subcommittee was charged with identifying available funding sources and the allowable uses of each fund and to recommend to the board of commissioners guidelines for disbursement of the CARES funding.

“We have identified certain dollars for PPE, we also approved dollars for the homeless community — those who were lodged in hotels — that was done a couple weeks ago now,” Britt said. “We worked out a quick arrangement with the chamber … and now we have a great partner to work with us on allocating dollars to the business community.”

Britt added the county will contract a local firm that understands federal dollars to provide auditing services.

The timeline for the subcommittee is:

  • Allocate funds to cover COVID-19 costs already incurred by the county and its estimate of future eligible costs (done).
  • Recommend guidelines for dispersing funds to local units of government/municipalities to recover their COVID-19 emergency-related costs (done).
  • No later than July 20, recommend guidelines for fund disbursement beyond local/municipal costs (guidance of continued need of the community and usage for remaining funds under federal guidelines).
  • No later than Dec. 14, recommend disbursement of any and all remaining funds that may have been held back, to ensure all possible and allowable uses and needs have been met.

Funds still can be allocated until Dec. 30, so expected costs and estimates for anticipated COVID-related issues can be considered and distributed through the end of the year.

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